Escape Route

     My father was an American soldier in World War II and my mother was a French Parisian who lived through the German occupation.
     My dad declared my U.S. citizenship at the U.S. embassy in Paris when I was born, and then my mom worked slowly through the French consulate in Los Angeles to establish French citizenship for me and my sisters who were born in the U.S.
     I have just recently gone over her letters in the uneven type of an old typewriter and in the meticulously polite formulations of formal French, addressed to the vice consul, petitioning for an affirmation of our French citizenship.
     It is as though our parents had a great plan that we never understood and is only now coming into full view.
     Because I always considered it a nice plus to have a second passport but I never use it when traveling and have no intention of moving to France to live. Nor have my sisters.
     But the next generation is another matter.
     Three out of my four nieces and nephews, all in their early 20’s, are deeply interested in the freedom to live in Europe, and two affirmatively consider life better over there. So the kids are pressing my sisters to confirm their own French citizenship in order to then press the case for the next generation.
     That status would allow them to live and work anywhere in the European Union.
     The French citizenship campaign we are now attempting to satisfy the French bureaucracy’s love of officially stamped documents dovetails with an impression that hit home just today about the American political campaign for the presidency.
     As Obama blisters in the heat of old school Republican attacks a successful effort to bring race to the fore, a barrage of attacks on character rather than substance, whispering (i.e. email) campaigns of vile falsehoods concerning his name and background, and volleys of economic and energy bunkum he is caving.
     That is to say, Obama has not abandoned his combination of analytical strength in discussing issues and his personal power in appealing to ideals.
     But in a major speech on energy this week, he points to the entrenched Congressional support, Republican and Democrat alike, for subsidized “fuels of convenience,” oil and coal.
     He wants to exploit the National Petroleum Reserve which is in fact the North Slope of Alaska, he suggests that coal can be burned in an environmentally friendly way (which is extremely unlikely to happen on a large scale) and he is now waffling about offshore drilling.
     I mean I support the guy, and understand that he wants to be President and therefore needs to both drift to the middle and take away Republican attack lines. But I begin to doubt whether he can make a whole lot of difference.
     A slow-down in the economy, that retains the potential and overall momentum to dive a whole lot deeper, combined with the fact that the current administration has raided the American kitty, means there will be no money to pay for a great green conversion in the U.S.
     So things will sputter along.
     Like Detroit.
     The carmakers are now paying for the same kind of foresightless decisions that Congress has made on energy. Fundamentally, they are stuck.
     And they are getting hit from all over by carmakers that are making smaller and more fuel-efficient cars. A car business analyst was making the analogy in the New York Times to a river of red ink that is getting deeper, wider and faster by the day and he questioned whether the big three automakers can get to the other side of the river in time.
     I am starting to think, as my niece and nephews have concluded, our nation is also stuck. Like the carmakers. Wedded to it subsidies, unable to adapt, beset by the rising economies of China, Russia, Brazil and India, a giant in chains.
     The option of European citizenship is starting to look pretty darn valuable. As those with great foresight, who knew from personal experience how quickly and completely a nation’s life can change, understood many years ago.          

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